Those who studied in Roman Catholic schools are quite familiar with the term ‘salvation history’ as it is one of the emphasis in their required theology classes, which most of the time students don’t really try to understand or at the (very least) care to give a hard look at the subject since in the first place it does not make sense to them, and whether they or the teacher is to blame for that lack on interest in the subject one thing is certain – it is in the Bible.
This I think is one of the mistakes that people make into articulating theology and its terms, they make it seem that they stand alone, and are only articulated in the latter works of more popular theologians rather than as spiritual truths that are already revealed in sacred Scriptures that speaks of God’s self-revelation in the history of Israel and in that of Christ’s time and in the Apostolic Church.
What’s saddening about this is that whenever one devout Roman Catholic youth is ‘converted’ into what is coined as Biblical Christianity the convert is made to believe that everything taught in the religion of his youth is nothing but pagan rubbish without ever looking at the many ties that historically and theologically binds us with Roman Catholicism, and I believe Salvation History is one of them.
In his book Introducing the Bible, which is a handy and concise book by book explanation of the entire Bible, New Testament scholar N.S. Fujita gives us a vivid picture of Salvation History as it was articulated by the Christianity’s first church historical – St. Luke the Physician:
As we observed according to the opening statement Luke writes his Gospel in an “orderly” manner. This order can mean an historical one, but it is not historical in the modern sense; a theological perspective, in fact, dominates the historical aspect. In this sense, Luke’s writing like that of Mark and Matthew belongs to the category of “Gospels”. Of vital significance to Luke’s theological perspective is the idea of the history of salvation. It is Luke’s fundamental conviction that God’s salvation of the world develops throughout history – from the beginning to the end. This history of salvation unfolds through three phases: (1) the era of “the law and the prophets.” (2) the time of Jesus, and (3) the era of the Church.
(1) The era of the “law and the prophets” runs from the beginning of history to John the Baptist. This is the period of the anticipation and promise of the proclamation of the good news of the kingdom of God.
The law and the prophets were until John; since then the good news of the kingdom of God is preached, and everyone enters it violently. (16:16).
Luke, like Matthew, presents a genealogy of Jesus, but the two genealogies do not exactly coincide. Luke traces the lineage, unlike Matthew, backward from Jesus even to Adam who, he says, is “of God(3:38). While Matthew intends to prove that Jesus was an authentic Israelite from the house of David, Luke stresses the messianic claim of Jesus, not on the basis of descent, but on God’s plan, and strives to present the significance of Jesus in the context of the whole world history. Jesus’ mission is to all mankind including Israel. We all are originally “of God” but have been lost. Jesus came to rescue all of us from alienation, bringing us back to God the Father. Thus for example, Luke uniquely quotes Isaiah 40:4-5 which ends with:”…and all flesh shall see the salvation of God” (Lk. 3:6;cf also 2:30-32).1
1. Fujita, N.S. – Introducing the Bible p.136-137